Abstract: Data, Information, and Knowledge Management professionals often have little guidance about what types of Inventories should be tracked and managed for an enterprise (e.g. a company or a government agency). As a result, they often waste time making it up as a they go along and creating misalignment between internal organizations and even between different enterprises they work with. The IF4IT has worked with numerous enterprises to develop a simple Inventory Management Command, Control, and Communications template (a.k.a. Enterprise Inventory Control Grid or EICG) that can be used to help ramp up, control, communicate details about, and continuously improve Inventory Management efforts. The EICG not only helps identify what should be tracked but it also highlights key attributes for every Inventory Type, making it easier to perform functions such as Inventory Management, Asset Management, and even Financial Management, for both IT Assets and non-Assets.
Best Practice: Use an Enterprise Inventory Control Grid to Coordinate Enterprise Inventory Management
IT professionals use the Enterprise Inventory Control Grid as a means of facilitating command, control and Communications (CCC) functions of various Inventory Types (e.g. “Systems”) and their respective Inventory Instances (e.g. “a specific System”).
NOTE: The EICG clearly breaks down Inventory Types that are considered to be IT Assets vs. those Inventory Types that are not considered to be IT Assets. Both are important for successful Enterprise Inventory Management.
The EICG helps with CCC functions in the following manner:
- Command: Command is about knowing the facts about Inventory Management and all Inventories impacted by it. Experienced IT Managers know to collect and maintain as many relevant facts as possible for each and every Inventory Type and all related Inventory Instances (for that specific Inventory Type). The control grid helps layout a framework and structure for collecting and organizing the types of facts that are important to an IT Manager, an IT Management Organization and any enterprise that cares about Inventory Management as a discipline.
- Control: Once an IT Manager has started to collect and organize facts about Inventory Types and Inventory Instances, it becomes easier to exercise control over such Inventory related data, information, and knowledge. The Inventory Manager, with the assistance of other Inventory Stakeholders, will be able to constantly evaluate the facts for the purpose of Inventory related and impacted decision making. The goal is to achieve better facts through better processes that come from better decisions. Better control comes from better command of your Inventory data. Command of your data starts with Inventory Type and Inventory Instance data collection.
- Communications: Once an IT Manager has collected facts and can start to control the Inventory Management landscape, he/she will use that data to communicate what he/she knows and is controlling to all relevant Inventory stakeholders. As the data in the Enterprise Inventory Control Grid (EICG) improves, the Records Manager can communicate current state and future state information, along with strategies and tactics for transitions from current state to future state. The IT Manager can even use the grid as a simple color-coded Dashboard that communicates things like status, priorities, issues, maturity and ongoing work.
Understanding the Enterprise Inventory Control Grid Layout
The most important things to understand about Enterprise Inventory Control Grids is that they are two-dimensional. In other words, they’re commonly structured as two-dimensional tables, like in a spreadsheet or a 1st Normal Form table in a database.
- Vertically (i.e. Rows), Enterprise Inventory Control Grids are used to identify Inventory Types. Each row in the grid acts as a representation for a specific Inventory Type and can be as course or as fine as you need it to be. NOTE: While the EICG is a starting point that has been optimized based on the most common Inventory Types, you can also use the IF4IT Taxonomy of Inventory Types as a means of fine tuning or enhancing the list of Inventory Types that might be important to you and your enterprise.
- Horizontally (i.e. Columns), Enterprise Inventory Control Grids are used to identify data about Record Types. Each column is labeled with a Control Attribute and acts as a data attribute or field that should be collected and maintained for each Inventory Type that is represented by an individual row.
Control Attributes, also known as Control Fields, are metadata that act as labels for the data that is being collected about Inventory Types. Some examples include but are not limited to:
- Inventory Name
- Inventory Owner
- Inventory Location
- etc. (there are far too many attributes to list here)
Collecting the data associated with such Inventory Attributes helps drive maturity and improve communications. For example, once you collect all your “Owner” data, you will be able to communicate who to go to in order to find specific data about specific Inventory Types. This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for establishing high levels of enterprise-wide Knowledge Management Maturity. Or, as you collect the data for things like “Link to Related Processes,” you and your enterprise will know which Inventory Types do or do not have documented processes (a topic that almost all Chief Information Security Officers / CISOs will want to know about).
It’s All About Inventory Management Maturity
We perform Enterprise Inventory Management (EIM) command, control and communications functions for numerous reasons. However, at the core it’s all about Enterprise Inventory Management Maturity. As we collect and improve the data we use to command, control, and communicate our Inventory Management efforts we are, by default, maturing such efforts and their associated knowledge. The more data an enterprise collects and shares, the more its EIM efforts mature. The more an enterprise improves the quality of its data, the more its efforts mature. With higher levels of maturity come higher levels of success and, over time, managing Inventory Types and their related Inventory Instances should become far more straightforward and easier. Sharing such information will also help to streamline work in other areas of the enterprise.
Spreadsheets vs. More Advanced Enterprise Inventory Management Tools
Whether you use a spreadsheet or a more advanced EIM tool is determined by the EIM maturity of your enterprise and the level of funding it wishes to invest in managing its Inventories. Many enterprises start with the EICG and, as they mature, use its structure and the contents to setup and populate more advanced EIM tools, which they establish at a later date.
Alignment With Enterprise Information Management (EIM) Efforts
Seasoned Inventory Management leaders even use their EICGs to drive, align with, and govern the Enterprise Information that is collected, controlled and communicated in other parts of their enterprises. They’ll use Inventory Control Grids to align data and information in other enterprise tools, such as their Intranets, Digital Libraries, Service Catalogs, Architecture Modeling Tools (AMTs) and even their Configuration Management Databases (CMDBs).
Examples: In the following Digital Library Example, you can see Inventory Types listed along the left hand side of every page and in it’s Master Catalog. You can even see detailed inventories and Individual Inventory Instance Records for the Inventory Types you’re trying to constantly track, audit and govern. Which Inventory Records you publish openly or keep private will be up to you and your enterprise.
The IF4IT Enterprise Inventory Control Grid
The IF4IT has worked with numerous enterprises that span private commercial companies and public government agencies to collect common information that should go into most Enterprise Inventory Control Grids. We’ve aggregated, cleansed and compiled the information to create a reusable template that you can download and use as a starting point for your own Enterprise Inventory Management Program.
If you’re a new IT Manager, you can use it to help you build out and establish your new Enterprise Inventory Management Program from its inception. If you’re an experienced IT Manager, you can use it to reconcile and test against what you already have, in order to help improve the work you’re already doing.